County won’t make up salary cuts of auditor, treasurer

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By Chris Sardelli

County Council decided Tuesday not to move forward with a proposal to make up for state cuts in the county auditor and treasurer’s pay.

Councilman Larry Honeycutt made a motion to approve the measure, but no other council member seconded the motion, which means the measure didn’t make it to the table for a vote.

S.C. Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom informed county Auditor Cheryl Morgan and Treasurer R.E. “Dick” Rowell in December that the state would be reducing the supplement it pays to their salary in 2009.

Morgan and Rowell had received a yearly supplement before taxes of $19,395 from the state, but because of budget cuts, the comptroller reduced those amounts – from $808 every pay period to $574, a difference of $233 every two weeks.

Morgan and Rowell each also receive slightly more than $40,000 in salary from Lancaster County.

If the motion before County Council had passed, the county would have covered about four months of the state cuts in their salary – or $4,926 for each of them.

Councilwoman Kathy Sistare did not approve the motion because she said she believes it was not the right time due to the economy. She spoke with several county residents who disagreed with helping the auditor and treasurer, when so many residents are hurting financially as well.

“I felt like this was not a good time to use taxpayers money to support their (auditor and treasurer) income when taxpayers’ salaries are being cut and they are losing jobs,” Sistare said.

Sistare said council should be “an example of good stewards” for the community and approving this motion would have been the opposite. She said this decision had nothing to do with Morgan or Rowell’s performance.

“It’s not that they don’t do a fine job. They are very dedicated to the county,” she said. “I just couldn’t justify voting for something like this when people are losing jobs and having hours reduced.”

County Administrator Steve Willis had expected the measure to be approved.

He said there was little discussion about the issue at council’s Feb. 23 meeting when it was moved to an action item.

“I was a little bit surprised. It came out of the blue,” Willis said. “The only council members I spoke to said they had no concerns.”

Despite the failed motion, Willis said there are no restrictions on revisiting the issue, and council could potentially bring it up again.

Willis said there is a proviso in the current version of the state budget, recommended by the state House Ways and Means Committee, that could protect the salary supplements for Morgan and Rowell next year.

Contact reporter Chris Sardelli  at csardelli@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 416-8416